Another school year has come to an end and this one was certainly even more exciting and demanding than the last. From Russia to Ohio to New England, I have travelled, struggled, practiced, performed, competed, and studied, somehow fitting in more this year than any year before and amassing quite a few anecdotes in the process!
Fall began with a one-in-a-lifetime trip to Europe, accompanied by my mother, who proved herself yet again to be the best travelling companion and quickest food finder (for times of musical and emotional crisis, of course) ever, although I've been told I could be biased. Th
is adventure commenced with a trip to Luxembourg in which we managed to see much of this beautiful country, including beautiful chateaux, the sprawling countryside, and many historical and fascinating instruments. The next stop was Paris where I was honored to spend time with the lovely Marie-Louise Langlais and Sylvie Mallet, see and play the instruments at the Conservatoire à Rayonnement Régional de Paris, and enjoy the unbelievable cuisine that cannot be found anywhere but in France.
The final leg of the trip found me in competing in the VIII Tariverdiev International Organ Competition in Krasnoyrask, Russia, a German-influenced corner of the country that is separated from mainland Russia by Latvia and Lithuania. The experience was nothing I have ever encountered before, competing against extremely accomplished organists from a dozen other countries before a 9-person jury of distinguished, world-class organists and pedagogues. After the stressful but exhilarating first round, discovering that I was one of the seven finalists (along with the two other American competitors!) was one of the most exciting yet frightening moments of my life. Knowing that I had an hour and twenty minutes of practice time on the beautiful Kaliningrad Cathedral organ for an hour-long program certainly made me become extremely efficient when setting pistons for the final round! Performing with two video cameras was certainly another first. The opportunity to play this beautiful instrument was a reward enough. Winning third prize came as both a surprise and a thrill: to place in the first international competition in which I had ever competed was more than I could have possibly hoped, espe
cially as I was the youngest competitor. At the risk of sounding cliché, however, the best part of the competition was being able to enjoy the company of the many people I met, with whom I became lifelong friends just through this highly-charged experience. I was on cloud nine all the way home, even though our flight from Germany to the US was cancelled and we arrived a full 26 hours later than expected!
I returned to Oberlin, where the semester was in full swing. Fall semester found me presenting my junior recital with a 45- minute program of Bruhns, C.P.E. Bach, and J.S. Bach. The milestone was memorizing the whole program, especially since memorizing is c
ertainly not my forte (excuse the pun). I performed a recital on a charming Hook & Hastings organ in Stonington, CT, thanks to Joey Ripka, and helped to create one of the first recordings on that instrument. I presented a masterclass for the New London Chapter of the AGO on a beautiful Fisk in Naiantic, CT, worked with several talented students, and met a number of organists and organ afficionados. The the semester ended with a bang as the basement of my apartment flooded just in time for the Christmas holiday!
January was another busy month as I spent winterterm at the Church of the Advent working again with Mark Dwyer, Ross Wood, and the truly unbelievable Advent Choir. There were many wonderful highlights of this month and I was privileged to play recitals at the Church of the Advent, at the Harvard Memorial Chapel, and at Trinity Church (Copley Square). I accompanied many anthems with the Advent Choir, the largest work being the Dallas Canticles by Herbert Howells. Mark even allowed me to conduct a few anthems!
Spring semester was far calmer than fall had been, although the amount of time that the semester's schoolwork took more than made up for my lack of travelling! Only two Cleveland-based concerts, one featuring German and the other French music, took me away from my studies. As I had already done the year’s degree recital, I was free to pursue a variety of repertoire and to focus on presenting Schumann’s Dichterliebe, Op. 48 on a 19th-century Broadwood piano for a friend’s senior recital.
All this and more happened in the span of nine months and I couldn’t have dreamed of more rewarding, exciting, and unforgettable experiences. It feels as though I learn and do more every day and I just can’t wait to see what the future has in store!